So many of my clients come to me with issues around late-night snacking and binge eating. It’s a super common issue for people to feel hungry even after a big dinner, and it doesn’t only become a problem for losing fat, but also with how we feel about ourselves.
So often, we eat at night because we don’t feel great about something in our lives. This, unfortunately, doesn’t fix the issue, but makes us feel worse because we are feeling guilty about the ‘binge’….and guess what…when we feel worse, we want to eat more. And so the cycle continues.
But it’s not all helpless! This guide is an easy way to understand your late night cravings, and I’ll give you simple techniques to stop them for good! So let’s get into it.
3 Reasons Why We Get Late Night Cravings (and Willpower isn’t one of them! ):
1: Your hormones are out of whack – The hormones that regulate your appetite are insulin, leptin and ghrelin. There are multiple factors that can spike and drop these hormone levels, making us feel hungry when we’re not, along with tired, lethargic, and craving high-energy foods.
2: You haven’t eaten properly during the day. This is so common in our go-go-go world, where we seem to glorify working through lunch and skipping meals because we’re all so busy. In fact, it’s only going to be increasing the likelihood of a late night snacking session.
3: You’re unhappy about something. Our bodies are funny. When we’re unhappy about anything, be it work, relationships, whether we’re angry, stressed or lonely, our body looks for food as a way to feel safe. Since a lot of us are under a lot of pressure, but don’t have the time to binge during the day, we often find that we succumb to the stressful urges when we finally sit down in the evenings.
Now we know that bingeing isn’t anything to do with a lack of strength or willpower, but simple natural physical and psychological reactions, let’s learn how to stop it.
5 Ways to Stop Snacking At Night:
1: Start at the beginning – eat a substantial, protein based breakfast. If you kick off your day looking after yourself, your metabolism will be working properly and efficiently, and you’ll be in a better mental state to stay on top of your diet throughout the day.
Try free range eggs or oats with nut butter, almond milk and chia seeds. Check my other blogs for a tasty, protein packed overnight oats recipe!
2: Don’t drink your calories – Avoid having soft drinks, juices, sugary coffees, sports drinks. The issue here is not the calories themselves, but the way we get them.
By sipping on a few of these drinks throughout the day, we are ingesting ‘empty’ calories that could have been replaced with wholesome, nutritious food. If we then go on to eat the same amount we normally do, we’re on track to gain weight.
When it comes to nighttime binges, the issue with soft drinks is that the sugar will give us a quick insulin spike and fall, meaning that we will feel great really soon after, but sluggish and looking for another sugar hit before too long – this is where the snacks come in.
3: Eat regularly, and include protein and good quality fats at every meal – this is one of the most crucial strategies to not only beat the nighttime cravings, but help with all of our health, weight loss and energy issues.
Start with 3 good meals a day; the healthy breakfast we already talked about, a lunch such as a big salad of grilled meats, whole grains and leaves, and a dinner of lean meat stir-fried with lots of veggies. Then add in an afternoon snack – this will really help the cravings at night. Going for an element of protein such as hummus, avocado, cottage cheese or peanut butter (eat it with crackers or veggie sticks) will keep you fuller for longer. That’s the secret of having proteins and fats. It’s about digesting slower, making the metabolism work more, and keeping the blood sugar consistent in between meals so we never crave fast-energy foods.
*Side note: For the most part, try to avoid carb-only meals such as veggie pasta or fried rice. They will have a similar effect as the soft drinks, in that you will get fast energy, but a drop soon after, causing the body to look for more. Of course, these meals ARE delicious and still hold a place in a balanced, enjoyable lifestyle!
4: Address your stress! As we spoke about, stress can be a huge factor, not only as a cause of bingeing, but also in how we process the food we eat.
When we are stressed, our body produces hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that search for glucose. This is because higher blood sugar levels suggest that we have plenty of food, and for our early ancestors, that meant we were generally safe. Foods that will rapidly rise our blood sugar levels are generally the ones we crave – simple carbs, sugary, salty and fatty foods. Don’t worry though – this happens to all of us naturally.
In that stressful situation, it’s tough to overcome the binge. But an awareness of the stress can help prevent it. Try to notice when you’re stressed, stop and take 10 deep breaths.
Do this regularly throughout the day to bring yourself back and ground your thoughts and emotions. Also, I would highly recommend taking up a quick habit of stretching and meditation for 10 minutes every morning. A happy mind makes for a happy body!
5: Go to BED EARLIER – Why is it so difficult to get grown-ups into bed? The truth is, so many of us stay up for the sake of it, binge-watching TV and putting off the work day ahead. But realistically, the longer we stay up, the more tired we get and the more our hunger hormones will increase. Remember, our body wants fast energy if we’re pushing it in a way it doesn’t like. So naturally, even if we had dinner an hour ago, if we are up late and start to get tired, our body will send us looking in the fridge for whatever we need to get through this next ‘ordeal’ – or, in this case, episode on Netflix.
My solution? Try and get yourself in bed before 10pm. And before you tell me, or yourself, that you can’t do that, and that you’re a night owl, just remember that every aspect of your lifestyle is only because of the decisions you make. Once you make the decision to improve your health, your actions need to follow.
6: Be PRESENT when you have dinner – this is one that is becoming less and less simple as our lives become saturated with information.
When you eat all your meals, but especially dinner if you’re a nighttime eater, make sure to ditch the screens. The reason for this is because if we eat whilst absorbing information from a TV, phone or computer, our mind is elsewhere, and our energy goes towards processing our Newsfeed, not our dinner. When our brain is focused away from eating, our power to digest food can be reduced by up to 400%, leading to less absorption of nutrients, and more storage of fat. Also, if we have an entire meal whilst looking at the TV, our brain can’t fully recognise that we’ve eaten or that we’re full, and so we’re far more likely to head for another helping, or check out the fridge as soon as we finish.
7: Forgive yourself.
Finally, if there’s one thing we need to remember, it’s that we’re HUMAN. Having an issue with over-eating doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t mean you have no willpower. We’re emotional beings, and always will be. In the moment, it’s tough to stop the binge, and really all the willpower comes into preparation and executing on the steps I’ve just given you.
However, if you find yourself in the depths of a self-induced 11pm ice cream battle, do yourself a favour. Accept it, enjoy it, and remember that tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity. The guilt won’t get you anywhere, but getting back on the horse certainly will.
So guys, I hope this has been helpful!
Start putting these steps into action in your life, and I guarantee that not only your bingeing will improve. Start to get a handle on your relationship with food throughout the day and your whole life will benefit!
Go get ’em. X